Common Law Terms Explained


The most common law terms are not necessarily the easiest to understand. These words may have a different meaning than you expect or be used in a more formal and specific way. It’s important to know what these words mean so that you can follow court proceedings with ease.

This article will discuss some of the most commonly used law terms and what they mean.


The prosecution is the party in a criminal trial that brings charges against the defendant. They are also responsible for presenting evidence to support their case. In some jurisdictions, the prosecution may also investigate crimes and gather evidence.

The prosecution is usually represented by a lawyer known as the Crown Attorney or District Attorney.


The defendant is the person who is accused of committing a crime. They may be represented by a lawyer, known as a defense attorney, or may choose to represent themselves in court. The defendant is entitled to a fair trial and must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to be convicted.

Common law


Common law is a legal system based on case law rather than statutes passed by legislatures. This means that the law is not written down in a specific document but is based on judges’ decisions in past cases.

This system is used in countries with a tradition of judicial precedents, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. It is also used in some civil law countries, France and Germany.

Under common law, judges have the power to make decisions that create law, known as precedent. This means that the law can develop over time to adapt to changing circumstances.

Judicial precedent

Judicial precedent is a legal principle that allows judges to make decisions that create law or precedent. This means that the law can develop over time to adapt to changing circumstances.

This principle is based on the idea that judges should rely on the decisions made in past cases to help them decide future cases. This allows the law to be more flexible and can help ensure that it responds to the needs of society.

Probate Court

It refers to a court that deals with a person’s estate who has died. This may include handling the distribution of property and assets and dealing with any debts or taxes that are owed.

If necessary, the probate court can also appoint a legal representative to manage the estate. Probate law firms like Keystone Law help individuals through the process of probate, ensuring that everything is handled correctly and efficiently.


It refers to the legal authority to hear and determine a case. For a court to have jurisdiction, there must be a proper connection between the parties involved and the subject matter of the case.

For example, if you are suing someone for damages that occurred in another state, the court in that state would have jurisdiction over the case. However, if you are suing someone for damages that occurred on your property, the court in your state would have jurisdiction.


When you are called to be a witness in a court case, it means that you are required to give evidence about what you saw or heard. This evidence can be used to help the prosecution or the defense build their case.

In criminal cases, witnesses may be asked to testify in court about what they saw or heard. This can be a very daunting experience, but it is important to remember that you are not on trial.

If you are asked to witness a civil case, you may be asked to give a deposition instead of testifying in court. A deposition is simply a statement given under oath, which can be used as evidence in the case.


A complainant is a person who files a complaint with the court. This may be someone who has been harmed by another person or who feels that they have been wronged somehow.

The complainant is responsible for providing evidence to support their case, and a lawyer may represent them.


A summons is a legal document used to bring a person before court. It orders the person to appear in court and usually includes the hearing’s date, time, and location.

A summons may be issued in criminal or civil cases and can be served on the defendant by a sheriff or process server.


In conclusion, these are just a few of the most common law terms that you might hear in court. It is important to understand the meanings of these words to follow the proceedings correctly. If you have any questions, it is always best to speak to a lawyer.

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